Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Recent News: Panerai Watches

Source: Google News

Panerai and Hermes lose weight, Hublot turns blue
The Australian, September 3rd

If you've ever experienced the cinematic oeuvre of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham et al., there's a good chance that between the bullets, explosions and hammy one-liners you glimpsed a Panerai strapped to a muscular wrist. The Italian brand is ...Read more

Rare Officine Panerai Watches Exhibition Retraces Brand History

First founded in 1860, Panerai came into its own in the late 1930s when it started supplying the Italian navy with diving instruments and luminous underwater watches. In 1936, it developed its first Radiomir model, and the exhibition includes an early...Read more

2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge heads to Newport
Sail World, August 28th

The 2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge (PCYC) North American Circuit will be in full sail over Labor Day weekend for the 36th annual Museum of Yachting Classic Yacht Regatta (MoY CYR) in Newport, Rhode Island. The MoY CYR will take place on ...Read more

Officine Panerai opens “History and Legend” exhibition in Singapore
South China Morning Post (subscription), August 27th

Panerai is taking people on a journey to revisit iconic moments for the brand. The “History and Legend” exhibition opened in Singapore's ION Orchard earlier this week (26 August) and is open to the public until September 6...Read more

Panerai Opens Flagship Boutique In Miami Design District
Forbes, August 26th

There are few more protective of these codes than Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai. There's a good reason for this. He has been the head person and first employee of the luxury watch brand since 1997 when it was purchased by Richemont. What the ...Read more

Officine Panerai 'History and Legend' Exhibition at ION Orchard in Singapore
SENATUS, August 23rd

Florentine luxury watchmaker Officine Panerai is set to showcase the "History and Legend" exhibition from 26 August to 6 September 2015 at ION Orchard, the exclusive shopping mall where the only Officine Panerai boutique in Singapore is based. This...Read more

2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge heads to Nantucket + Video
Sail World, August 15th

2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge – After a series of successful races in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, UK, and Marblehead, MA, the PCYC reaches Nantucket, MA next week for the 43rd annual Opera House Cup Regatta (OHC). The OHC Regatta will ...Read more

These Officine Panerai diving watches are making waves
GQ India, August 11th

Long has it been said that a good watch is a worthy investment. In the day and age of wearables, you'd think a chronograph wouldn't be able to hold on to its appeal. Make no mistake, that's not likely to happen any time soon. Humble as it may look, a...Read more